Remarks at a White House Meeting With Members of the Council for a Black Economic Agenda

February 24, 1987

Reporter. Mr. President, who do you bring to the White House to replace [Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff] Don Regan?

The President. I have some remarks I have to make here on a different subject.

Well, it's good to have you and the members of the council here again -- we met before. I recall that when we met last year, you had some pretty impressive ideas on your agenda dealing with economic development, education, and housing. While Congress has yet to act affirmatively on two of those items -- education vouchers and enterprise zones -- working together we were able to get legislation on tax reform and on tenant management and public housing.

This year the objectives, which are among the highest on our list of domestic priorities, our competitiveness and welfare reform, which together create paths of opportunity. And I understand that you have also expanded your own agenda to include items which complement these objectives.

We must start now preparing America for the 21st century. America is beginning the great quest for excellence that will open paths of opportunity so that all Americans will be ready for the year 2000. Our welfare reform package is our way of opening paths of opportunity. We can't go into the competitive world of the next century with so many of our fellow citizens caught in a poverty trap -- a trap that robs those in it of hope and dignity and robs all of us of the benefits of their minds and their work. But welfare reform is not the only part of our quest for excellence.

But I want to stress one thing: We're not talking about denying help to those who must have the help of others through no fault of their own. What we're talking about is reforming welfare so that the program itself gets people back into independence and self-sufficiency, rather than permanently capturing them into that system and keeping them there. For all Americans, we want to open more and more paths of opportunity in education and expanding scientific literacy and fostering new technologies and, through new technology, new jobs for the future; and building a fair, free, and growing world economy that gives hope and opportunity to all Americans, all mankind. That's the great challenge before us. I look forward to hearing your ideas on these subjects and then find out how we can all be helpful. And now we will pause while our friends leave us. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, did you forget about approving the arms sale to Iran?

The President. What?

Q. Did you forget having given that prior approval for the arms sale?

The President. Now, you know I don't take answers [questions] here, and I'm not going to answer any questions on those subjects until the Tower commission report has come in.

Q. But could you tell us if it upsets you that reports are continuing that you've forgotten this or remembered that?

The President. Well, I'm not supposed to answer, but I'd like to ask one question of everybody. Everybody that can remember what they were doing on August 8th of 1985, raise your hand. I think it's possible to forget. Nobody's raised any hands.

Okay. All right.

Q. What about Mr. Regan? Do you have a replacement in mind, sir?

Q. Is Nancy talking with -- --

The President. After the Tower commission, please.

Note: The President spoke at 2:13 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House.